Advertising and Marketing Your Startup Business

1. Using Online Tools

In the Internet era, we have a lot of online tools available to us to advertise businesses, many at little to no cost. Some online advertising tools are more effective than others; just as many are significantly more expensive than they were even a year ago and may not neces­sarily provide the bang for the buck you expect.

First and foremost, have a website! Even if it’s for informational and contact purposes, testimonials, and so on—have a web presence. For many Gen Xers and Gen Yers, this can legitimize your business, particularly if you offer support (like product manuals in PDF form) or products (in an online catalogue or store) available in a purely online format. As the Internet expands (yes, it is still grow­ing) Gen Xers and Gen Yers are starting to look at whether or not a company has a website as a credential of legitimacy—taking the standpoint of “If they don’t have a website, they can’t be a very good establishment.”

How in depth and what type of online presence you have is highly dependent on the generation and demographic you are after. People that buy entirely or almost entirely online are usually younger or are limited on spare time. They are less afraid of giving information online, and they have credit cards or online PayPal accounts. In essence, they grew up with the Internet and it is a part of their normal daily lives. The fear factor is gone or dissipated because they intuitively know what to look for to make sure a site is secure.

2. What Your Buyers Are Looking For

If your target generation is Gen Yers, for instance, you will want to incorporate something more engaging on your website; product reviews, blogs, videos, and so on. If your target is the Boomer generation, offer security, convenience, and service. Understanding your target is critical here.

You need to know more than the generation, though. You need to know what that demographic—which includes age, income levels, educational levels, and so on—really wants and what the market for them is doing (it might be great for Boomers but not so great for new parents, for instance). Participate in the public arena online if it’s within your target demographic, understand through surveys and asking your buyers what they really want, read trade publications, and watch for what is hot in the demographic you sell to. Don’t be afraid to try something new, either. You can test the waters pretty easily if product development isn’t required. For example, if you want to know how well a new color of a handbag you created goes over, try selling 1 or 2 in a boutique store. If you want to know how many people will buy a new digital camera bag you are selling, put it online on eBay and see what happens.

2.1. Keeping Tabs on the Market

You are undoubtedly keeping tabs on the market. You are watching the competi­tion and you are reading up on the latest and greatest in your industry. This is one of many ways to keep tabs on the market and is essential to do regardless of what business you are in. If you are in the technical business for instance or marketing to the Gen Yers you might want to read different magazines than if you are running a travel business for executives.

A great way to increase the usefulness of your website and increase the spotlight on your own business is to share the latest developments with regard to products and services within your area of choice. If, for example, you are selling bath salts, and you are constantly updating the latest information on bath salts and other complementary products, your customers (lovers of bath salts) will be more apt to visit your website to see “what’s new” on the market, which in-turn will increase your website traffic, consequently increasing the chances of purchases by those visitors.

2.2. Participating in the Public Online Arena

If your demographic is online a lot, you will want to participate in the public online arena. What does this mean? Blogging yourself, responding to blogs, creating an expert site where you offer advice as a go-to person for knowledge on the subject (or want to become one to create loyal buyers and build your reputation), and asking consumers online what they think of your product or service—and being prepared to take the good with the bad.

Regardless of how you choose to do it, set aside a few minutes per day to blog, and to write, post, and answer Q&As for your customers. They will turn to you as an expert, and even if you are a bit higher priced, they will remain loyal to you if they value your expertise.

2.3. Asking Questions of Your Potential Buyers

This category goes beyond potential buyers to people who have returned product to you, too—or asked for any sort of refund. I’ll go back to one of my favorite companies, Zappos. When you click the button for your automated return and free shipping label from Zappos.com, you are asked a few simple questions that are entirely optional, but many of us feel inclined to answer anyway, to thank Zappos for making our returns no-hassle. These questions are product reviews (was the product true to size? true to width?) as well as what Zappos could have done to prevent the return, and if the consumer will shop with Zappos again. The consumer feels a part of the process—as though Zappos didn’t really want the consumer to be unhappy and genuinely cared about his or her feedback. My guess is they do something positive with the information, because their site and service only improves with time.

What about potential buyers? I frequently create surveys, like the one for this book, that inquire as to what my readers want to see in a book—and then ask them questions to help others in their entrepreneurial boat. I use two tools: Zoomerang and Survey Monkey. They are available respectively at www. zoomerang.com and www.surveymonkey.com. Creating and collecting surveys is super simple, and you are given URLs you can insert into newsletters, e-mails, solicitations, websites, and so on. Check out these tools and, using their tem­plates, get some ideas on what you could survey your group about—perhaps the need for a new product or service, or how much they would be willing to pay for
upgrades. I generally offer something in return for completing a survey. I want consumers to know I value not only their opinion but their time, too.

2.4. Trade Publications

Trade publications are widely varied—from scholarly peer-reviewed journals for various disciplines to magazines that those in a particular trade read regularly. You can read them and contribute to them also. For instance, I’m a contributing writer—a Business Correspondent—for MultiHousing Professional magazine.

I started writing for Military.com as well, which has led to becoming a regularly weekly contributor and much more visibility in my discipline. I enjoy getting ideas and thoughts off my chest and into the hands of the public who need good, solid, accurate information. I also build my credibility this way.

If you don’t know how to start, consider becoming an about.com writer (more information is available on their website) or writing a column for free. Most newsletter editors gladly seek out writers or columnists and will let you put your website at the end.

I also read magazines and encourage you to do so, too. Are you in the retail fashion business? See what the models and celebrities are wearing by picking up US Weekly. Are you into electronic gadgets? See what the Gen Yers think is the hottest new trend in Wired magazine. These inexpensive, tax deductible expenses can do nothing but educate you about your demographic and your business.

2.5. Watching What’s Hot in the New Generations

Unless your demographic and generation is going to buy from you forever, you will need to constantly innovate for the next generation. If you are a business owner who has created walkers for the elderly, that doesn’t mean you cannot find something that the new generation needs—or perhaps cool walkers that the new generation would want to buy their grandparents as a birthday gift. Try to get creative with what the new generation thinks is innovative.

Don’t know how to tap the other generations for what they want? Try a survey on your website or conduct research into the demographic you are interested in. You can also pay for a research company to conduct the research for you.

2.6. Don’t Be Afraid of Something New!

When in doubt, don’t be afraid to try something new! I’ve had everything from 30-day T-shirt businesses to long-term real estate analysis companies. Some things stick; some don’t. Some are long-term prospects; others are short-term endeavors to keep boredom from creeping in.

3. Advertising—What Pays and What Doesn’t

You have a lot of advertising opportunities available to you. But what pays and what doesn’t? You want the biggest bang for the buck, of course. But if you think advertisers are going to tell you the return on investment, think again!

Here are some common methods of advertising that seem to pay off for many business owners:

  • Personal client gifts (birthdays, Christmas, etc.). Keep track of recurring clients’ important information, like birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Believe me, they will notice that you remembered!
  • Greeting cards on specific important days or for personal events.
  • Handwritten thank you notes. If your business is product driven, consider including one with each order, no matter how large or small the order is.
  • Paying attention to specific likes and dislikes. Use this information to sell complementary products and services and recommend “the latest and greatest.”
  • Free stuff (to a certain crowd—not everyone thinks free stuff is good … some think it waters down your brand, or consider it to be “clutter” or “junk”).
  • Discounts that rarely occur. If you rarely if ever discount your goods or merchandise, than an unusual sale is important. Think about Nordstrom’s half-yearly sale for women and children. People wait all year for a sale that occurs every six months because the discounts apply to new merchandise and not just stale merchandise—something Nordstrom rarely does.
  • Connecting with established businesses, and bouncing both ideas and customers off of one another.
  • Referrals and rewards. It is best practice to reward both the referred and the referrer—get the two talking about you.
  • Complimentary items (“freebies”) that will keep your customers coming back for more. Every time I order from x10.com I get “x10 bucks” that expire. While I get annoying reminders about those expirations, they do entice me to get some other cool gadgets I’ve been wanting.
  • Informative newsletters. Make sure you get consent before sending out a barrage of e-mails to your customers. Also, include an “opt-out” method within each newsletter you send; make sure it is easy to find, and don’t wait the allowable 10 days to take someone out of the mailing, either.

3.1. Print Advertising

Print advertising is on a rapid descent in America. Just a few short years ago, print advertising started to see a decline as it was replaced by web-placed ads, which were cheap and effective. Today, web advertising isn’t as cheap; but print advertis­ing is even less effective.

I only recommend print if your demographic still reads the papers. Each news­paper usually has an advertising demographic section on their website or available by phone. If it’s precisely your target, go for it. Otherwise, stick with something more useful and less expensive.

3.2. Phone Book Ads

Years after I have closed a business, the yellow pages from various providers still call; which leads me to wonder—if they don’t know I’m not in business under that name, how much can I rely on their service as a consumer? Not so much. Some companies use online referral services on the web, like Service Magic and others. But for the most part, most individuals don’t go to the phone book unless they are more traditional buyers. Most Gen X and Gen Yers use online 411 and yellow pages services, or simply Google the city plus the service or product they want.

If you think about it, a phone book is obsolete the minute it is printed. Businesses come and go on a daily, even hourly basis, but the trusty yellow pages are only updated once a year.

Microsoft founder and president, Bill Gates, provided this prediction in his annual address in the spring of 2008: “Yellow page usage among people, say, below 50, will drop to zero—or near zero—over the next five years.” Internet yellow pages and telephone directories are quickly becoming the most frequently chosen methods for seeking out products and services, and even these methods could become obsolete at some point with the searching and categorizing algo­rithms of search giants like Google and Ask.com.

Now if you feel that you must be in your local yellow pages, consider the follow­ing before signing up:

Consider your demographic—traditional phone book usage is strongly age driven, with the majority of users being over the age of 50. If this is your target demographic, go for it!

Smaller may be better—if you absolutely must be in your local phone book, or if you can’t decide, pay for a small ad. This way, you are still in the phone book, but aren’t throwing money down the drain on a full-page ad that isn’t going to bring you any revenue.

Another option to consider is giving your yellow pages a “test run.” Sign up for an ad for one year. In the ad, place a “yellow pages discount” offer. When those who find you through the yellow pages call, they will ask for the discount! Track how many of these discounts you have to honor during your first year, and if the profit you make from these customers justifies the cost of running the advertise­ment, continue the ad for the following year. The minute the business that the ad contributes does not justify the cost of maintaining the advertisement, cancel the service. After you cancel, though, be prepared for the telemarketers to call for years, perhaps even long after you’ve asked to be put on the “never call me again under any circumstance” list.

3.3. Commercials and Infomercials

Who hasn’t had a bout of insomnia and lain awake listening to the “$9000 monthly I made from sitting at home doing nothing! ” advertisements or the infomercials for silly products that, at 3 A.M., seem like they might be useful? Many products have gotten their start with infomercials, but may be perceived as gimmicky. Think carefully about how this falls into your strategic plan before you embark on an infomercial.

Commercials are another story. With cable television, you can target your ad to a specific area code or zip code or county, depending on the cable company.

I would recommend calling the company to find out what their costs are. That will of course be highly dependent on the station and the time, prime time obvi­ously costing more money.

3.4. Local Networking and Publicity

Many people are still advocates of local business organizations, and sure, they can help. For a while I was a member of the Women’s Business Association in my area. Did it result in business? A bit. But I felt awkward; and they weren’t my demographic anyway. I did network and mingle with their group, but they were significantly older than I and I sensed distrust rather than embrace from them.

I chose not to continue going, but to instead create my own seminars and invite people to attend at-cost, so that I could upsell products later.

Even major chains (like Bebe retail stores) hold local events for specific busi­nesses. Mingle parties, with cocktails and appetizers, are not all that uncommon for retail establishments; nor are fashion shows for clothing companies, and so on. Even Home Depot has their local “how to” seminars that individuals in an area can attend. This helps to attract and retain loyal customers. Whether it will work for you depends on what you do for a living and what business your busi­ness is in.

3.5. Word of Mouth

Most marketers agree that word of mouth is still the most powerful tool available. The key is that the word needs to be good—and from the mouth of reliable people! So reliable people need to say good things about your company. Remember the old adage that numerous people will share a bad story but someone with a good story might, might, tell one other person. This holds true today, too, though with Internet reviews people are a bit more apt to write both negative and positive comments. The Internet has leveled the word of mouth playing field.

Be sure you address negative comments, and always thank referees for referrals. My insurance broker always sends a Starbucks gift card for a new client. While it’s a small token, it says a lot to me—he values my business and he values my loyalty to him. As long as he continues to do a good job, I will continue to refer people to him.

This works the same way online. Many people will refer you to others through e-mail. Everything you say via e-mail needs to be very specific, thorough, and written kindly, with a purpose—even if you aren’t happy you have to write it—like an apology letter to a customer that you think did you wrong. Remember that the forward button is just a click away. How many people have reposted bad letters to entire blogs? Many—too many to count. But enough to remember that what you say is very important—as is how you say it.

3.6. Tracking Leads

As you get any type of lead—whether through snail mail, online, etc.—you need to track it. You need to know where your customers—new and repeat—are com­ing from. One way to do this is to have people mention a code for a discount. Another is to ask plainly how the customer found you—or if you’re online, to have it part of the checkout process. Also, if you have a presence online, be sure your web hosting company provides analytical information.

4. Using the Web as an Advertising Platform

The Internet is an incredibly powerful tool. Look at recent changes in the way the web is used—as a powerful political machine, as an incredible marketing system for the fastest growing and most profitable businesses in history—it’s no wonder more and more people are looking to advertise on the Internet.

You will want to advertise to lots of individuals—locals who want to buy local, other web businesses, affiliates, companies (business to business), consumers

(business to consumer), international, national—you name it! In times when the dollar is strong, your focus might be more on domestic sales than international; as the dollar weakens, this may shift to a more global focus.

One great thing about the Internet is that you can advertise to everyone and anyone, and you can accept online payments and ship anywhere—so your market is literally limitless. A large portion of this section is about teaching you how to advertise, where to advertise, key ingredients in the advertising recipe, and how to begin getting clients.

4.1. AdSense and AdWords—Google’s Baby!

“Google” is synonymous with “search” for many folks; it is a household name— and for good reason. Everything from Google Maps to Google Earth to search­ing for the closest florist is done through this vast company with incredible reach that is constantly expanding and innovating. Google offers two programs that could be useful to the web entrepeneur: AdWords and AdSense. AdWords is for advertisers, and AdSense is for web publishers. If you go to the Google home page, select advertising programs underneath the Search section, and then select AdWords or AdSense.

AdWords targets people actively looking for information related to a particular product or service that your business sells; this means that those who visit your site from AdWords are targeted—prescreened if you will—genuine leads. The program uses CPC pricing, which means you pay when your ad is clicked on. There is an activation fee, then a per click fee. You tell Google how much you are willing to pay per click and per day. Ads for your business appear alongside or above results on the Google search results pages for Google, too, which is great for building your brand.

AdSense, on the other hand, is for web publishers to earn revenue from their websites. AdSense will deliver an ad that is targeted to content pages, and when Google SiteSearch (more information is at www.google.com/sitesearch) is added to the site, AdSense also delivers targeted ads to the search results page. This allows your company to make residual income when visitors click on ads that are associated with your business; which also means that the ads you’re “selling” and

making money from are targeted leads as well. Ads that appear are those relevant to your own company and your own business, and you can manage your AdSense account and track earnings online very easily.

4.2. Search Engine Placement—Is Paying for Hits Worth It?

In order to help search engines discover your website, you can do some of the following … the more the better:

  • Make at least some of the content easy to subscribe to by using feed but­tons, and make sure that the content is relevant.
  • Use only one URL or web address rather than multiple addresses. Try not to have one for your blog and one for your company. Integrate as much as you can.
  • Have your web developer enter your site into a search engine optimization (SEO) tool. This will help get your site noticed faster with the right keywords.

In general, search engine placement is worth it if your site is extremely important to the success of your business. Be sure you research which companies are going to offer guarantees and are most competitive, and ask a qualified web designer for assistance.

4.3. The Role of Web Design

The design of your website plays an incredible role in the type of business and clients that will visit your site. A Web 2.0 enabled, engaging, friendly, and easy- to-follow site will give your audience a great experience—very important for success.

You will want to find a designer who doesn’t necessarily understand your business—but understands his or her own business and how to design current, modern sites. You will also want someone who makes changes quickly with­out wasting time. When something needs to be updated, it needs to be done immediately.

The design of the site should be friendly to persons with disabilities and the visually impaired, and should offer the visitor the ability to do simple things like change font size and display colors on the fly. The more customized the users can make the site, the more often they will visit. Integrate the Web 2.0 things we have been discussing—like blogging and networking and reviews—directly into your site, too. Users should not have to go to a separate site for this information.

4.4. Social Networking and Web 2.0

There is a pre-Web 2.0 era and a post-Web 2.0 era. Web 2.0 is dynamic, customer driven, and consumer and community focused. It doesn’t stay static and is constantly changing based on user content. Blogs, MySpace, Facebook, even Amazon with its current strategy, are all Web 2.0.

But the way we advertise in these spaces, pre- and post-Web 2.0, is different. In the pre-Web 2.0 era, people still promoted their websites through newsgroups instead of blogs. Now with Web 2.0, we do what is called social broadcasting, social networking, social blogging—notice a key phrase here? You need to be sure you hire a web architect or developer who understands how to do this!

The Web 2.0 Internet generation lives in an ever-changing, online social world where they associate engagement with being able to contribute to a blog or share a video or a file or comment—they don’t like being fed information with no method of remarking. They want to synchronize their cell phones and bookmark their PDAs, and their way of living revolves around this low attention span that will eventually be your consumer. This is the group spending an hour a night answering MySpace bulletins to learn more about their “top friends,” and they don’t have a phone at home because they are entirely mobile because they use their cell phones as their primary lines.

4.5. The Impact of Generation Y on Business

The Y Generation is having an incredible impact on business. We already know that teenagers make up a vital part of the economy in terms of spending, but Gen Yers make up a vital component of the Internet. This is this group asking for social networking, for the ability to not be “fed” information but to respond to everything, and for information to be incredibly current.

You will want to develop for this crowd even if they aren’t your target market. Chances are, one day they might be—plus, this will keep your site fresh and modern.

4.6. Responding to Negativity on the ‘Net

Good marketing entrepreneurs know that having bad information out there unresponded to is far worse than bad information you do respond to. Rather than deleting negative posts, respond to them based on what you are doing—or have done—to rectify the situation and follow up with a personal response to the person posting also. This goes a long way in the online community.

Many business owners, especially hoteliers and restaurant owners, are inclined to post fake reviewers glorifying their food or their hotel rooms. Not only do others see right through this, but one glowing review amidst a bunch of bad ones will not help anything and may make the situation worse if others perceive that the owner may have posted it. Keep the online marketplace honest. Respond to negative posts so that those reading the posts know that you take pride in your business and you care about your consumers—and that the good reviews prob­ably aren’t bogus. We often learn more from negative feedback than we do from knowing what we’re doing right.

4.7. Blogging

Blogging is one way to share information with the world, and it’s read and picked up by lots of different engines that are constantly seeking out your specific topic. Often content for other blogs is reposted by blog originators, so your material becomes “viral” very quickly—a good thing for public relations and marketing for any company! I ran into this myself when I posted a controversial post on my blog about real estate agents hindering the market recovery. It was reposted on thousands of blogs—mostly by angry real estate agents (they aren’t my target audience anyway!). As a result, hundreds of for sale by owner and investor sites also picked it up as an article that validated their message, and my website hits doubled over the following week. If you run a blog and use an RSS feed (mean­ing the material can be automatically fed into other blogs) it can be an incredibly rich and powerful marketing tool for your business.

A blog has multiple elements in play, each one making the blog special, unique, and perhaps most importantly, identifiable to the blogging community and to the individuals that post on there.

One element is the title, which is the headline of the post. Next is the body of the blog post, which contains the content you want viewers to read consistently, and this is often referred to as the element that is “pushed.” (Babb & Lazo, 2007) The post has a date and time, and it may optionally include comments, categories, and/or trackbacks that refer to the original entry. (Wikipedia, 2006) The inter­activity is what sets this apart from traditional newspapers.

Blogs are often seen as a way for nonmainstream media to get around the “filter” that exists in the mainstream today. Recently mainstreamers have also joined the “blogosphere” (the community of blogs and bloggers) and have created blogs themselves. A published blog software comparison chart available at www.ojr.org/ ojr/images/blog_software_comparison.cfm shows you lots of various options for bloggers to host and maintain their web logs. Blogs are a great way to market your expertise and your services, to share your knowledge with others, and to build a sense of loyalty if you’re offering great information. I see this happen all the time on my car site forums. The shops that do work take pictures of how to do repairs and modifications yourself, share them online for free, participate in car rallies, and give away product, and they build an incredible base of followers who buy even if their prices are higher than their competition!

Just as with the web in its infancy, there really are no rules for how to decide to set up and host your own work. As noted in my coauthored book on blogs and podcasts, “Keep in mind that blogs and podcasts are tools, not solutions. This means that if you have something meaningful to say, they can help you say it in an exciting and innovative way. However, if your words are not of much value to start with, they probably will not add value to them.” (Babb & Lazo, 2007)

5. Online Advertising That Works (and Some That Don’t)

There are two major types of advertising online. The first is cost-per-click advertising, or CPC. This is the most common method of advertising on the web, and when you think of buying online ads, this is what most have in mind. Since many users are frustrated with banner ads and since they’re relatively invisible to most people now (think ad overload), this method allows you to only pay when the person actually clicks on the ad, which is a benefit. Some have even called for boycotts against sites that have too many ads because they are annoying to users, so you don’t want to pay for an ad no one wants to click on.

Generally you can expect to pay more for a CPC ad campaign, but it’s targeted and more effective. You also set a price ceiling—a maximum amount you will pay each month—so that you can balance and protect your fees each month or year. This will help you with budgeting as well. Your ads automatically run until the number of click-thrus you paid for is reached.

In the cost-per-action (CPA) type of advertising, you pay for performance. You can either pay per impression, per click, or whatever other option is valuable to you and that the advertiser offers. CPC advertising is popular but it can be very costly; CPA-based advertising means you won’t pay unless you actually make a sale from the company’s referring ad. Sometimes the advertisers will charge you for registrations or subscriptions (even if subscribing is free) because it means more targeted leads for you—so read the contract carefully.

When you select this type of advertising, your ad is put into rotation and it begins to display as soon as it’s added. You decide what actions you will pay for— sale, registrations, newsletters, etc.—and then budget for it. If you pay for 100 sales, your ad will continue displaying until that is reached. If the ad attracts a lot of people, you’ll be paying quite a bit, but you are getting customers in the process.

You should use this method if you want to test out your ad before starting a large advertising campaign online. This will let you see how many people actually purchase your products after viewing your ad; if you want to go with bigger CPC- or CPM-based ads later, at least you’ll have the ad type, graphics, wording, etc., fine tuned.

Cost-per-impressions is another effective way to reach customers. Instead of pay­ing per click or per sale, you pay for a set number of impressions (say 2,000)—an impression being an appearance on a website. Unfortunately, though, as click- thru rates go down in general (less people are clicking on ads), this may not help you much. You need to monitor those clicks to see if this is a worthwhile method for you by asking for information from the companies you buy advertising with and by looking at statistics from your own website hosting company.

Interestingly enough, we are seeing that text-based ads often receive more attention and more click-thrus than banner ads. That probably seems odd, since banners are graphical and we assume people would prefer to click on a graphic. Data shows, though, that the average view time for a text-based ad is about 7 seconds (people have to read it!), while for a graphical ad is about 1.6 seconds. If you decide to pay for an ad, you may see if the site you’re advertising on offers text-based advertising. Also, if your keywords are very popular and expensive, CPM-based methods might be better for you.

Also, you should ask about having your ad appear on a page that matters to your particular customer base. Click-thru ratios improve if the audience is targeted rather than general. You should be able to find good advertising options if you

ask the advertiser; they want your ad bucks and are willing to make modifications to get them. I recommend buying in low minimums first, so that you can see if the ad campaign is going to work before you pay a lot for it. Do your homework, don’t pay for a large amount of impressions up front, and be sure you are very clear on your budget! Make sure the contract clearly states your maximum amount paid out monthly. You don’t want any large surprises on your credit card bill.

6. Marketing Hooks

We have lots of marketing hooks out there to help us be successful—everything from mottos to slogans to advertising campaigns to bumper stickers! The goal is to get your name synonymous with the product or service for your area or region, but not so much so that you become a commodity (think Rollerblade or Xerox).

Here are some quick tips for a successful marketing campaign:

  • Keep the message consistent
  • Maintain your “sound level” consistently (the amount of info your custom­ers receive about your company)
  • Don’t be afraid to get creative
  • Turn negative feedback into positive experiences for individual consumers
  • Encourage honesty with your customers
  • Don’t overwhelm customers with junk of any sort
  • Make every contact with the client worth their while

There are differences between advertising and marketing. Marketing is the positioning of a business; it’s a strategy that encompasses advertising campaigns, public relations, and every other tool you use to get word out about your com­pany and its capabilities.

Advertising stems from ads—whether online or more traditional—and includes items like phone book entries, billboards, etc. You can advertise your business in general, a specific promotion, a specific product or service, or everything at one time.

7. The 1,000-Pound Gorilla

I’m not referring to the SEO or job search sites! I’m referring to the difficulty in handling events that are unexpected—like a large credit card bill or the death of a loved one. Sometimes these thousand-pound gorillas, known as T-P-Gs, can overwhelm and even destroy a company. This is why it’s so important to have contingency plans. Some suggest that you can market your way through them and many people can and have. From a financial perspective, you need to plan for the unexpected and the unplanned—have savings, or as some call it, a failure fund. It isn’t fun to think of failing before you even begin, but we must contin­gency plan to have enough peace of mind to focus full time on our business.

From a marketing perspective, if you’re going to use any aspect of guerilla mar­keting, make it a big one!

7.1. What Guerilla Marketing Can Bring to Your Business

Essentially, guerilla marketing is using unique tactics to market your business— some would even suggest that it is a way to shock your buyers with unique or unexpected information or advertising to your client by unique means. The term was originally coined back in 1984 by Jay Conrad Levinson in a book titled Guerilla Marketing, suggesting that by focusing all of your time, energy, and creativity on unconventional promotions on a very low budget was better than big marketing plans for many businesses. The term has come to mean general unconventional marketing methods.

This method was specifically engineered by Levinson for small businesses or entrepreneurs, and is based on psychology. Your investment isn’t so much money as it is time and creativity. If you’re not creative, you might have to hire this out— or use another method. In this technique, you concentrate on how many new relationships are made in a given period, and work toward bigger sales with existing clients rather than getting new clients. The idea is that, ultimately, those existing customers will refer you to more clients and your business will boom. Levinson also suggested that you forget about competition and concentrate on your core, and on cooperation with other businesses—partnerships that make both businesses stronger.

7.2. How to Use Guerilla Tactics

So what can you do right away to employ some of these guerilla techniques? They sound good right? Well for starters, you can use viral marketing on the Internet through social networks. Create a Facebook page and a MySpace page for your business, and get on LinkedIn. Send great deals to existing clients to upsell; pay for referrals or incentivize those who refer others to you. Some start grassroots marketing campaigns, with others marketing on their behalf. Some use more subtle product placement to avoid having their products get stale or their ads go unheard. If your target audience needs a bit of a reminder that you exist (maybe your product line is routine or a commodity, or you have a difficult- to-reach demographic) you might employ some of these tactics to get your small business going.

Try some alternative marketing techniques, like posting videos or round table events with some humor on YouTube, or throwing a beach ball around a ballpark with your company’s name on it.

Get creative and give it a shot. It’s time consuming, but if you’re in the early phase of your business, you probably have more time on your hands than you do money.

Source: Babb Danielle (2009), The Accidental Startup: How to Realize Your True Potential by Becoming Your Own Boss. Alpha.

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